Do you want to be more than just your child’s parent? Learn how to build a friendship with your child in 5 easy steps.
“I am your mother, not your friend!” Oh, the number of times I heard that during my childhood. In fact, I can still see my mother’s half-crooked finger wagging at me, and the way her face would pucker up like she’d just licked a lemon when she got angry.
Being a parent myself now, I understand where she was coming from (I also think I get the same lemon-licking pucker look on my face) but the thought that rang through my head then, and still does now, “Why can’t you be both?”
With hindsight I now get why it’s really difficult to be both, but I still believe it’s possible, and really, if you want to have the very best relationship you can with your child, it’s necessary too.
The Parent vs Friend Debacle During Childhood
No matter which side of the opinion fence you sit on with this one, no one can deny that parenting today is not like parenting when we were growing up. Just as things have changed in the world we’re raising our kids in, so our parenting styles have to adjust.
There are pros and cons to everything. So, let’s have a look at some of the benefits and risks to being your child’s friend.
Benefits of Being Your Child’s Friend
● Studies (yes, people in lab coats) show that an authoritarian style of parenting can actually damage a child’s development.
● Your child will be more likely to have a longstanding relationship with you even after they leave home.
● Your child will feel like they can trust you with their deepest secrets.
● Your child will feel that they have a support structure in place.
Risks to Being Your Child’s Friend
● If you give your child too much freedom, they could end up pushing the boundaries even more, including those set by society.
● Despite what I believed when I was a child, boundaries and limits are actually very healthy and necessary for a child to feel safe. If children are left to run wild, they may not feel secure.
I think the benefits to being your child’s friend are always going to outweigh the risks, but it’s all about how you define that friendship.
There will always be a shift between the two. You will need to learn how to be a disciplinarian when the situation calls for it and how to use your friendship bond at the right time.
5 Ways to Be Friends With Your Child
If you think you can maintain the balance and want to look at building a friendship with your child, here are five ways you can get that started.
#1: Set an Example
This may be super confusing because it sounds like we’re talking discipline here, but, actually, it’s about trust. If you really want to straddle that line between parent and friend properly, your child needs to first believe what is coming out of your mouth.
#2: Be Encouraging
Don’t worry, there are no pom-poms or cheer outfits required here (and who the heck can still fit into those anyway?) Encouraging your child is especially important when they express a desire to try something new.
When your child feels like you have their back, your bond can only get stronger. No one is asking you to ignore the fact that Timmy has the ball skills of a drunk T-Rex and yet he still wants to try soccer, but he will regret it if he doesn’t try it.
#3: Ask Their Opinion
Nothing makes you feel valued like having someone ask your opinion and it’s no different for kids. While they don’t need to be involved in every decision — and no, they don’t get to pick their punishment for breaking the rules — asking what they think about things that impact them creates a stronger bond.
#4: Shoot Down the Helicopter
As a disclaimer, I am not advocating that you fire upon any flying objects! What I am saying is stop helicopter-parenting. Friends don’t hover. They engage. Parents don’t need to hover either. If you feel the need to insert yourself into every moment of your child’s life, they are going to struggle to grow as people.
#5: Respect Their Choices
Your children do not need to be the mirror image of what you have pictured in your head. If they make choices in their life that are outside of what you think is right for them, trying to force them into your way of thinking is not going to be helpful.
Whether their choices are right or not, they will not be happy unless they are given the opportunity to explore the possibility, so let them try. If they fail, they’ll know you are there to help them pick up the pieces.
It’s a Wrap
While there will always be those that are anti friend-parenting, as the world that our children are growing up in changes, so we need to as well. The strict disciplinarian route does not suit everyone, but this doesn’t mean you need to be a walk-over. With practice and our top five tips, you will be your child’s friend and parent in no time.